As customer expectations increase, implementing artificial intelligence (AI) customer service is becoming more important to business growth strategies.
Customer service is often the face of your company. Your team must embody everything you want your customers to know about your brand, from expertise and quality to how much you care about your customers and want to make your products or services easy for them to use.
It’s a tall order. Your team needs to understand your customers, both at a high level of the industries you serve and on a more personal level. Regardless of the channels they use to connect, customers expect service agents to have access to information from prior calls, and details about their purchase histories so agents can specifically tailor interactions to them.
Furthermore, in competitive spaces, a customer may sit back and challenge a service agent to “Dazzle me.” Going the extra mile can make a positive impact on customer retention. However, it’s critical not to overpromise and underdeliver. Stackla research shows that 88 % of consumers say authenticity is a factor when deciding where to do business.
When businesses deploy AI-powered customer support tools, they can meet customers’ expectations for fast, personalized service and help human customer service agents perform their jobs more effectively.
How does AI Customer Service Work?
Traditionally, customer service meant phone calls to an agent during business hours, and unfortunately, that often meant customers waiting on hold. AI customer service solutions allow customers to make requests and find the information they need at any time of day, no matter what the time zone. This technology also gives businesses the ability to give their customers flexibility in how they’ll reach out, e.g., phone, online chat, messaging, email, or social media.
Businesses can also choose from a variety of solutions that enhance customer experiences in different ways.
Chatbots are digital solutions that simulate conversations with humans. They can be as simple as a program that allows customers to choose from options to connect with knowledge base articles or other information they need. Chatbots can also be highly sophisticated, leveraging multiple types of AI to create conversational AI platforms.
Unlike chatbots based on rules and predefined search options, chatbots built on conversational AI simulate human conversation. Natural language processing (NLP) combines human language modeling with machine learning (ML) and deep learning technologies to understand voice or text data.
Conversational AI also uses natural language understanding (NLU) which enables a computer to understand the meaning of human language and the customer’s intent. Then, natural language generation (NLG) allows the platform to create a relevant response in a way that a user can easily understand.
Artificial intelligence can make customer service agents’ jobs easier. AI can interpret what customers are looking for and automatically display articles, specs, order tracking, or other information on the agent’s screen. Then they can convey the information the customer already communicated directly to the agent, so when their conversation begins, the agent has all the information they need to quickly reach a resolution.
Agent assist solutions will save your customer service team time – and allow agents to impress customers with their expertise and efficiency.
In some situations, AI customer service can handle requests, start to finish, without the need for human intervention. Furthermore, customers often prefer going the self-service route. Statista reports that 88% of customers expect businesses to have online self-service portals.
AI can field and interpret customer requests quickly and efficiently to connect people with relevant resources, all of which helps create happier customers who will stay loyal to a brand.
Robotic process automation
Although robotic process automation (RPA) doesn’t typically interact directly with customers, it can provide significant benefits to customer service teams.
It can take some tasks off a customer service agent’s plate, such as updating records, sharing data with other systems, such as inventory, fulfillment, or sales, or automatically sending emails requesting feedback or service. With RPA handling routine, day-to-day tasks, agents can devote more of their time to helping customers.
Interactive Voice Response
Call centers have used interactive voice response (IVR) to manage routing and simple transactions for years. However, enhanced by AI, these systems can provide even more value to businesses, such as using voice biometrics to verify the customer’s identity, allowing customers to pay bills or place orders — and minimizing calls where customers give up and say “agent.”
What are the Advantages of AI Customer Service?
One of the biggest advantages of AI customer service technology is its ability to automate processes. With AI, customer service can be available 24/7, every day of the year, without increasing the number of agents on a support team.
When conversational AI powers a chatbot, for example, customers have an easier path to the answers they need. AI customer service meets their expectations for instant resolution, accurate answers, and personalized service. Ultimately, AI customer service can leave customers more satisfied with their interactions with your company.
AI customer service offers businesses additional benefits, such as:
An AI customer service platform responds to customer requests immediately, even when multiple customers reach out for service at the same time, and begins the process of getting them the information they need. It’s a much different scenario than calling and listening or music on hold for five minutes – or more.
Also, using AI customer service technology to work smarter, not harder, will also improve your team’s productivity and call throughput. With conversational AI covering simple requests, your team can focus on more pressing issues that require their attention, including VIP customers and complex support questions.
Furthermore, when customers interact with AI chatbots first, those solutions can collect data that saves customer service agents time when they take the handoff. There isn’t any need to ask for the customer’s name, account number, order number, or other information — AI customer service already has that information so the agent can hit the ground running with an answer or a resolution.
Lower operating costs
AI customer service allows your agents to make the best use of their time, lowering the demand for labor to adequately staff this part of your business.
Chatbots leveraging conversational AI are more than up to the task of connecting customers with their account balances or helping them check on order status. It isn’t necessary to hire additional staff to address these issues.
Machine learning solutions are trained with the basics to solve a specific problem, but once people start interacting with the solution, they learn. Depending on responses from customers, follow-up questions, and resolutions, the ML model recognizes various ways that customers can ask questions and get the answers they’re looking for.
Additionally, you can review data from your AI customer service solution, such as the first-time resolution rate and how many questions a customer typically has to ask to find what they need. Then, you can be an active part of machine model training directing it to provide answers that you know will be more relevant.
AI customer service platforms can support training new employees. A machine learning model trained for your use case knows many of the questions customers ask and the answers they want.
While new hires are learning, they can use an AI customer service platform as a coach during calls, giving them the information — and the confidence — they need.
Businesses learn quickly that ensuring employee satisfaction is just as important as customer satisfaction. High rates of employee turnover hurt operational efficiency and they also hurt the bottom line. Factor in the time and resources to recruit, hire, and train new employees, and you’ll see that retaining employees is key to operating profitably.
Additionally, minimizing employee turnover is crucial as The Great Resignation continues; PwC research shows that 20% of the workforce will resign in 2022. Additionally, labor shortages persist, so if your business suddenly finds it has openings, they may be difficult to fill.
Still, customer service agents’ jobs include dealing with some stress. From call to call, they constantly field and solve problems, and may encounter angry customers. The more stress they experience, the less likely they are to be satisfied with their jobs.
AI customer service solutions can help relieve some of that burden, decreasing the number of calls that agents must take and providing them with support for the customer interactions that need their attention. And with decreased wait times, customers are less likely to be frustrated when they begin speaking with the agent.
If a customer service agent’s job is easier, more organized, and more data-driven, then they’ll end customer interactions more successfully, have higher job satisfaction, and be happier on the job. According to research by the University of Warwick, happy people are 12% more productive than other employees.
What are the Challenges of AI in Customer Service?
Although AI customer service platform providers make it as easy as possible to build their solutions into a business’s processes, challenges may sometimes arise.
Planning and leveraging the right resources can help you overcome these challenges and experience a smoother implementation:
- System integration issues
Integrating systems, like your CRM, and ensuring your AI solution routes information to the right department can present challenges, particularly if you don’t have resources with technical expertise on your staff.
It’s often beneficial to work with an experienced systems integrator to build a seamless, connected environment that includes your AI platform.
- Mobile customers
More people are using their smartphones or other mobile devices to engage with companies online, so any customer service solution should deliver good mobile user experiences.
Ensure user interfaces are appealing and easy to use, whether on a large screen used with a PC or a smartphone’s small screen. Also, make sure buttons and links aren’t too close together on mobile, which can add friction and frustration when a customer is attempting to request service.
- Adapting employees to new processes
If you’re moving from 100% telephone support to a digital solution, customer support workflows will change significantly. It can be intimidating to long-time employees who are adept at providing customer service by phone. They may also be concerned that your plan is to replace them with technology.
However, if you manage change well, the transition will go smoothly. Be transparent with employees about your plans for leveraging AI, educate them on how to use the solution, and, more importantly, the value it will deliver.
When employees see how AI will help them do their jobs more successfully, they’ll enthusiastically adopt the solution.
- Finding the balance between tech-based and people-based service
Ensure that you use all resources, both digital and human to provide customer service. In almost every case, the best strategy is to use both.
Never attempt to replace the service that humans can provide when situations are unusual or complex and understanding human emotions is crucial. On the other hand, humans can’t equal the speed and efficiency of AI.
Find the formula that results in the best customer service and the best gains for your operation.
How to Implement AI in Your CS Workflow
The best way to implement AI customer service technology will vary depending on the products or services you provide, the industries you serve, and the types of customer service experiences you want to create.
To illustrate this point, consider the customer service a financial institution provides, complete with iron-clad security and access to highly sensitive data vs. a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that automates business processes. Their customer bases are different, the requests they make when they contact customer service vary, and the experiences those businesses want to provide are likely very different.
Also, the needs of a new business building its first customer service team will differ from a mature business modernizing its processes. The AI customer service technology you choose should meet your specific and unique needs to support your team and delight your customers.
These tips can help you make the best decisions about the solution you choose and how to get the most value from it.
Before you shop for an AI customer service tool, or any other tech solution for your team, think through how your business wants to use technology to provide the best possible customer experiences. Use data from customer service interactions in the past to determine:
- How customers prefer to contact your team
- Which channels enable the best results, e.g., first response time (FRT), tickets per customer, and average resolution time (ART)
- Any challenges your team faces now that technology can help them overcome
- Feedback from customers on how you can improve service or options they’d like to see
First, define your needs for an AI customer service tool. Then you’ll be able to research and source the best one for your business, whether conversational AI, an AI chatbot, agent assist solutions, interactive voice response (IVR), or other technologies.
Create a single source of data
Customers expect agents to have all the information required for instant immediate answers. That may require that the customer service platform your team uses have visibility into your e-commerce or online platform, customer portals, user data from cloud solutions, and inventory data. Additionally, your agents may need to be able to process payments or refunds.
To get the most value from an AI customer service solution, it’s important that the platform – just like your agents – have access to all the real-time data and systems necessary to provide quick, accurate, customer-pleasing service.
You’ve evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of your current customer service processes. You’ve researched AI customer service platforms and chose the best one for your business. The solution is integrated with your business systems, and your team is using it. But your work isn’t over. To see the most ROI from the solution, you need to monitor its performance.
Save data you collect prior to deploying the solution and calculate key performance indicators (KPIs) that help measure your customer service team’s performance and effectiveness. Use this as a baseline and monitor how those KPIs change once your team is using the AI customer service solution.
If you have assessed your team’s needs and your customer’s expectations correctly and chose the right solution to address them, KPIs should improve. Service should be faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective. Furthermore, you should see a positive impact on your Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score® (NPS), Customer Retention Rate, and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
However, KPIs may show that your processes may not remain effective over time. Meeting customer expectations today may be different than what you need to do to ensure customer satisfaction next year. Calculate KPIs on a regular basis, note trends, and stay committed to continually improving the quality of customer service your business provides.
Interested in AI Customer Service?
Consumers expect your business to leverage technology to enhance customer service. AI customer service solutions, from chatbots and conversational AI to AI-enhanced interactive voice response, can give you the capabilities you need to provide the fast, personalized service they demand while decreasing your business’ operating costs and helping customer service agents improve their performance.
After you define what you need from AI customer service technology, you need to find the right platform for your business. Solvvy can make that part of the process easy.
Solvvy offers a powerful conversational AI platform designed for customer service teams. Solvvy’s natural language platform understands customer intent and responds with personalized answers 24-7 across every channel.
Solvvy also has the ability to pass intelligent handoffs to agents to help them deliver faster, efficient customer service.
Schedule a live demo to experience first-hand how AI customer service technology can enhance your operation.